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Fantasy Baseball: Same As It Ever Was

On a daily basis, I look forward to reading Buster Olney's blog to see if I can sift some nuggets of information that can help me in my fantasy leagues. Yesterday morning, he posted the following:

Coco Crisp is nearing a deal with the Oakland Athletics, according to late word from MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes. Presumably Crisp will slot into Oakland's center field and be flanked by Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis to make up a strong defensive outfield. This is yet another sign that teams that are most shaped by statistical analysis have determined that defense is the undervalued asset in the current marketplace.

He goes on to talk about the Red Sox recent signing of Mike Cameron to play left field, and the Mariners decision to re-sign shortstop Jack Wilson. We have also seen the White Sox trade for Juan Pierre. Other than Wilson, the 3 guys mentioned have one thing in common for fantasy owners. They can steal bases. They can run fast and they can play good defense.

These trades and signings mark a change in roster construction philosophy that could expand over the next few years. As Olney stated, defense is the undervalued asset in the marketplace. Teams are putting more emphasis on pitching and defense after a decade or so emphasizing the long ball in the steroid era.

It is time for fantasy owners to take notice as we may see a switch to small ball where pitching, defense and speed are emphasized more. Will we see more Coco Crisp/Juan Pierre types winning position battles because he can steal a base and play good defense? This could lead to an increase in stolen bases and a continued drop in home runs and runs scored in 2010 and beyond.

Should the roster construction philosophy of major league teams change to emphasize speed and defense, fantasy owners will have to factor that into their draft day strategy as speed guys will become more abundant and power guys become that much more expensive.

On a separate note, could this change in philospophy lead to the elimination of the designated hitter in the American League?